Parents of dependent children make up about a quarter (4.8 million) of all undergraduates in the United States.
Nearly half of those parents (42.5%) are single mothers1 and of those, more than three-quarters (87.8%) are low-income.
Women of color are more likely than other college students to have dependent children.
Nearly 1 in 2 African American college students, or 47%, are parents. Native American and Hispanic/Latino students are also disproportionately likely to have children, at 41.4% and 31.6% respectively.
Proportion of Undergraduate Students with Children by Race/Ethnicity and Gender
Compared to married parents, single parents are more likely to be financially disadvantaged. Student parents, and especially single mothers, have far lower expected family contributions (EFCs) than their peers.
An IWPR analysis finds that students with children are nearly twice as likely as those without children to have an EPC of $0 — 29.6% of students with no children, and 61.2% of students with children have EPCs of $0.
Undergraduate Students with Children with an EFC of $0 by Race/Ethnicity and Gender
Being a student parent is often associated with higher levels of unmet financial need, low levels of college completion, and higher levels of debt upon graduation.
Despite the fact that student parents are more likely to receive financial assistance in the form of Pell Grants than non-parents, (43% and 23% respectively) the average unmet financial need of student parents is still relatively high.
Too often, financial aid packages for these students don’t cover all of the different kinds of expenses – such as fees, books, rent, and childcare – a student has to pay to stay in school.
Not surprisingly, students with children report much higher levels of debt than their peers do, over both the short and long term.
Average Undergraduate Debt One Year after Graduation by Gender and Parent Status
Among students with debt, student parents have an average of $28,350 in undergraduate debt one year after graduation compared with $24,499 of debt among those without children.
- IWPR analysis of U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2011-12 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study